This week’s Unsung Heroes Family Feature is the Doss family. Shelby and her husband Jerod–also known as Boogie–have two beautiful children, Layla age four and Pheonix age two, through adoption via foster care. This sweet family lives in Oklahoma and have been fostering for three and a half years! Shelby is a mom, photographer, writer and speaker and her husband Boogie is a minister. The Doss family loves Jesus, traveling, living room dance parties, Disney, and adventuring!
Maegan: Shelby, I am so glad to have you and your family as my guests today! So tell me, what made you and Boogie decide foster care was for your family?
Shelby: My husband and I knew we wanted to adopt before we were even married. About a year after tying the knot we started looking into how we would be able to fulfill that desire. We knew that it would be expensive and we wanted to start working on it right away (being 20 we knew it would be a while before we had the funds needed) that’s when I stumbled upon foster care. We saw the great need and we knew this is the route we needed to take.
Maegan: Timing is a topic that always comes up when talking about foster care. When did y’all know it was ‘time’?
Shelby: We had been talking about starting the process of getting certified to foster but since we didn’t know anyone personally who had done it, we didn’t even know where to start. One day while my husband was at work I decided I was going to call our local DHHR. When I called the woman on the other line they had classes starting in a week or so and signed us up! That woman ended up being our first home finder and it all just felt like it was meant to be. After that phone call I called my husband and told him we were about to start our journey. It’s hard to explain but It all just felt right.
Maegan: What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge as a foster parent?
Shelby: The biggest challenge to foster parents is not letting fear win. It’s easy to let the fear and anxiety creep in and take over. You’re in high stress situations, advocating, court hearings, meetings, therapy, facilitating visits, navigating relationships with biological family, all while doing your ‘normal’ everyday life. Don’t let the fear steal your joy. When you’re waiting to hear back from a worker about how court went, when goodbye is looming, or when you feel like no one is in your child’s corner-don’t let fear win. Don’t let it steal the moments you have RIGHT now. Don’t let it take the good that is there. Don’t let the thought of goodbye keep you from the joy of hello. Don’t think because you might not be with them forever that right now doesn’t matter. Fear is a lie.
Maegan: I have a lot of people ask for advice. What advice would you give to someone considering becoming a foster parent?
Shelby: Know your limits. No one can say ‘yes’ to every situation. And even though it is going to hurt when you have to say ‘no’, know that your no is someone’s yes! Know what you are capable of taking on at this point in your life. That likely will change and grow as your parent, learn the system, and become more knowledgable about parenting kids from hard places. But, especially in the beginning make sure you know what you and your spouse are ready to take on.
Maegan: If you could give one piece of advice to a new foster parent what would it be?
Shelby: Give grace. Give grace to yourself, to your child, to their biological parent, to the system. You will never be wrong in this-we could always use more of it. This doesn’t mean let everything go and just go with the flow. DON’T DO THAT! Advocate, speak up, protect, push for better! But while doing all of this recognize that we are all human and likely doing the best we can. We have a broken system and it can be disheartening and frustrating but, just like any relationship working together will get a lot more accomplished than continually pointing out shortcomings. Treat the system and the birth family as if we are all on the same side-because we should be! The side of the child.
Maegan: What is your goal as a foster parent?
Shelby: While we had the dream and desire to adopt we also knew that foster care was so much more than a means to adopt. We became foster parents to be a safe place for those who needed it. We not only had a heart to be there for the children but to be a source of encouragement for the parent as well.
Maegan: Fostering is not sustainable lifestyle and it’s important to have a plan before beginning. Does your family have a set of goals you plan to or a specific end date?
Shelby: After being foster parents for over 3 years in West Virginia we packed up and moved to Oklahoma. Right now we are giving our family time to just be. We haven’t lived a life without workers, visits, and the state involved in our parenting since the day we became parents over 4 years ago. After a tumultuous battle for our son we knew this is what we needed. These past 6 months have been medicine to our soul. We still have a strong yearning to be involved in the foster care system and we are confident that one day we will jump back into being foster parents but this break was crucial. So, while we are on this respite we are looking for other ways to be active in advocating for vulnerable children. I’m working on getting certified as a CASA worker and we are hoping to be enrolled in a mentor program at some point. Even during the periods of times that we don’t have foster children in our home, I don’t believe there will ever be a day when we can fully walk away from foster care-we know too much. We have the ability, we see the need, and therefore we have the responsibility.
Maegan: What is the best thing about being a foster parent?
Shelby: The absolute best thing about being a foster parent is seeing our children flourish. I say our because as soon as a child is welcomed into our home-they are ours-even if just for a season. Being able to witness the broken being healed, the fear turn to peace, the dim light shine bright, is such an incredible gift. Being there to nature and help heal the hearts of the one that’s hurting is one of my greatest joys in life.
Maegan: Attachment is one of, if not the biggest, concern most non-foster parents have about becoming a foster parent themselves. What are your thoughts on attachment?
Shelby: Attachment is different for everyone and I can only speak for myself. Love is a choice. And as long as you are choosing to love these children attachment will come. It might be immediate (for both of my forever children it was instant), or it might take time. But making an active decision to love regardless if attachment takes place right away thing or not is the most important thing. And in time-attachment will come.
Maegan: Why are you passionate about foster care?
Shelby: I’m passion about foster care because if we as foster parents aren’t then who will be? Our eyes have been open to crisis and we have a responsibility to speak up and out for those who cannot for themselves. I look at the world differently now. When I hear about a child in need the thought is ‘what if that was my child.’ Because, in reality it could be, and to think if I would have missed out or not been there in the time they needed me most of all because of fear or because I wasn’t educated about foster care. I’m so passionate about speaking about foster care because I want people to know two things: their child could be out there-needing them, crying for them, looking for them—regardless if it will be their child for forever or for just a season. That child is out there and they need YOU. James 1:27 is still in my Bible and I plan on living that out. These children deserve better, our future deserves better-and who am I to say ‘leave it for the next person-that’s just not my thing.’ Taking care of each other-that should be everyone’s thing.
Maegan: If you could only use three words to describe the certification process, what would they be? Why those words?
Shelby: Paperwork. Transparency. Preparation.
I would use these 3 words to describe the certification process. Paperwork-not much to say about that. Get ready for your hand to cramp.
Transparency-Be ready to open up and let people into parts of your life you normally wouldn’t. It can be uncomfortable for someone to basically interview you for the position of ‘mama’, but its all worth it. Preparation-Not only did a lot of what we were having to do to be certified prepare us as foster parents but it was preparing our minds and hearts for what was going to happen as well. The paperwork-it never goes away. The transparency was continuing as well–we had to get used to people coming in and out of our house, asking permission for things we normally wouldn’t have even age much thought to, giving an answer for doctor’s visits, formula intake, etc. So more than the classes, the attributes we were perfecting through this time were what were beneficial.
Maegan: There is a great need for foster parents all across America. Before we go, could you list some of the statistics for your area?
Shelby: In Oklahoma on any given day there are more than 350 children who are waiting for a forever home. That’s 350 children that are literally just waiting for someone to say ‘yes’ to them. There are over 5,000 children in our state in need of a safe place to land and more than 1,000 of those children have a permanent goal of adoption.
Maegan: Shelby, it was such a pleasure to talk with you about foster care! Thank you so much for all the hard work you and Boogie do as foster parents. And thank you for being a shining light to all foster children.
I hoped you enjoyed hearing from Shelby and that you learned something new today. Please leave her some love here in the comments and Instagram–foster parents need lots of encouragement and support! If you personally know Shelby and Boogie I’m asking that you to support them with your hands this week. Call and ask when you can come over and do some laundry and/or wash some dishes or bring them dinner. Don’t call and ask what you can do–call and say your coming over to help or bring a meal. And then pray for them! It takes a community to foster–it takes lots of help. So, show Shelby and Boogie how much you appreciate all they do by lending a helping hand. If you’d like to follow along on the Doss family’s journey you can find them here on Instagram! Have a great week everyone!
Maegan — xx